Posted by Fred Humphries
Vice President, U.S. Government Affairs, Microsoft

This summer, the people of the United States will look to Charlotte and Tampa as political leaders from across the country gather to lay out their vision for the future. Younger voters in particular have a stake in the course that will be charted in each city. They remain a pivotal voting block for the candidate who will best address their issues and concerns regarding jobs, education, political accountability and how to face the nation’s biggest challenges.

Conversations with the Next Generation

On August 29 and September 5, Microsoft, in partnership with National Journal and The Atlantic, will host Conversations with the Next Generation Town Halls at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, respectively, that will bring together our nation’s top leaders for a dialogue on the important issues facing America's young and emerging workforce.

America’s next generation faces stronger economic challenges than ever before – in the current recession, unemployment rates are twice as high for those with just a high school diploma (10.8 percent) compared to those with a bachelor's degree or higher (4.9 percent), demonstrating an enormous hurdle when it comes to education.

At Microsoft, we know that science and technology are enormous drivers of innovation and job creation, but too many of our students face an opportunity divide – a growing gap between those who have the access, skills and opportunities to be successful and those who do not. Our support for these conversations is part of Microsoft’s deep commitment to education, community investment and youth engagement across the U.S. aimed at closing that divide. In practical terms, Microsoft’s goal is to help youth obtain the skills they need while connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship.

The Conversations with the Next Generation town halls will engage young leaders, education experts, and journalists on the most essential of these issues: What challenges are youth facing in today’s economic climate? Is the education system preparing them for employment and entrepreneurship in a 21st century economy? What works and what needs to change? Additionally, the town halls will explore young voters’ expectations of their political leaders and ways in which we can empower youth to engage in the political process and make their voices heard.

The event moderators, including NBC's Chuck Todd and Chelsea Clinton, as well as National Journal's Chris Frates and Jim Tankersley – will lead keynote interviews, panel discussions and audience Q&A’s with unique perspectives on the youth vote, education and the future of America's economy.

Participants appearing at one or both of our town halls include: George P. Bush, Kal Penn, Rep. Aaron Schock, MTV's Andrew Jenks, Michelle Rhee, OurTime.org’s Matt Segal, the national presidents of both the Young Democrats and Young Republicans, as well as university students and local education leaders including Dr. Ronald Carter, President, Johnson C. Smith University and MaryEllen Elia, Superintendent, Hillsborough County Public Schools.

In addition to the live events, which will feature an audience of students from local colleges and universities as well as convention participants, the Town Halls will be simulcast on Xbox LIVE, made available via Skype in the classroom and streamed on The Atlantic website.

Learn more about the town hall events and register to attend here. And get more details about Microsoft’s role as an Official Innovation Provider for the national conventions and community partnerships in the Tampa Bay and Charlotte regions.